President of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Netball Association (SVGNA), Natasha Baptiste, says that financing and the absence of an indoor facility, are the two biggest hurdles faced by this country in improving its world rankings in the sport.
Rankings are done based on ranked matches played against ranked countries in World Netball, and Batiste told SEARCHLIGHT “…in order for St. Vincent and the Grenadines or any country in the Americas Region to improve, we must play more netball, but not just amongst ourselves. However the lack of finances limits how much we can get out to play matches, and without an indoor facility, we are unable to attract those countries that can come to our shores for test series, so our biggest hurdle would be finances”.
Despite these hurdles, the SVGNA enjoyed many successes in 2023, though Batiste pointed out that “amidst these successes, we identified areas where we can improve to make the sport of netball in St. Vincent and the Grenadines a powerhouse in the region again”.
In 2023, St Vincent and the Grenadines won the bronze medal at the inaugural netball competition at the Central America and Caribbean Games in El Salvador behind Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, and silver at the 2023 ECCB International Netball Series in Antigua and Barbuda behind 2023 champions Grenada.
SVG ended the year with a global ranking of 18, and the SVGNA president said she is satisfied with that ranking despite the many hurdles encountered.
“Satisfaction comes as a result of many factors, and although it can be said that we could have ended higher, the challenges were great and I am pleased at where we ended in relation to our world ranking.”
She sees the number 18 global ranking as consistent with the progress made in 2022, and noted that 2023 was a year of lessons learnt.
“Every year lessons are learnt and while 2022 was a big year with St. Vincent and the Grenadines now coming back as a powerhouse in the region, the lessons learnt then, helped to propel us in 2023 and those learnt in 2023 will form the blocks for us to reach further. No two years will ever be the same in growth and development.”
There was not much movement either way by Caribbean countries save for Grenada which moved up one position to 17. For there to be any improvement within the Americas Region of which St. Vincent and the Grenadines is ranked fourth, Baptiste said that “the focus administratively in the sport within the region needs to be assessed. Administrators at the regional level need to aid the process to allow for more play rather than making it financially challenging for teams to compete”.
The club structure is critical for the development of any sporting discipline, and netball is no exception to the rule. Baptiste told SEARCHLIGHT that if St. Vincent and the Grenadines is to improve on its national team performances in 2024, “the clubs and or teams need to get away from the sweat mentality and focus on proper training, teaching the basics. Many may say…there’s where the grass roots program comes in and I totally agree. The human resources are lacking. Additionally, instilling a level of discipline for the sport is another factor. Clubs and or teams’ leaders also need to ensure that education is passed on about changes in rules etc., which are disseminated to them. If our players understand the rules, they will become better players. Additionally, they need to put proper training structures in place to have the athletes ready for national representation when called for trials.”
Meanwhile, in her New Year’s Address, Baptiste stated: “We enjoyed the success of being a part of the inaugural staging of netball in two major competitions, namely the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games, and the Commonwealth Youth Games. Though the results were not the same in both of these competitions, our presence indicated our commitment to having our athletes – both juniors and seniors exposed to the game at the highest levels. Congratulations must go to our Senior Vincy Jewels who secured the bronze medal at the CAC Games behind Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago.
“We continue to forge towards improving on the product being delivered to all our stakeholders and we look forward to your continued support, guidance, and feedback”.
President Baptiste added that “Special gratitude must be extended to the Government and people of our beautiful St. Vincent and the Grenadines for your tremendous support of our Vincy Jewels and netball throughout our nation, with special mention of Prime Minister Dr. Hon. Ralph E. Gonsalves and Consul General Mr. Rondy McIntosh.”
She also expressed gratitude to the corporate community, of which several were singed out as well as the St. Vincent and the Grenadines National Olympic Committee, and many other entities who provided support to the association.
“2024 will come with its own challenges, but we are poised to ensure that we weather these together as one nation, one people and one netball family. Together we will continue to make netball great again in our blessed nation St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”